Ukraine conflict: Families of all POWs need answers on their loved ones


As per its mandate given by the Third Geneva Convention, and in agreement with all parties, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is visiting prisoners of war (POWs) on all sides of the international armed conflict in Ukraine.

These visits to prisoners of war on all sides in recent months have allowed the ICRC to inform hundreds of families about their loved ones. Many more families need answers; the ICRC must have full access to POWs and civilian internees, wherever they are held, in order to provide those answers.

The nations that agreed to the Geneva Conventions committed to protecting the lives and dignity of people deprived of their liberty during armed conflict. All sides in conflict benefit from ICRC’s visits to POWs and civilian internees, a key humanitarian activity and legal obligation,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer.

The Geneva Conventions, as well as customary international humanitarian law (IHL), spell out the ICRC’s right to visit all POWs and civilian internees, wherever they are held, in international armed conflicts. These visits help ensure respect for their life and dignity by reminding the detaining authorities that the captives’ treatment and their conditions of internment or detention must correspond to standards laid down by IHL. This includes access to medical care, food, and water. They also cannot be tortured, intimidated or exposed to violence. In addition, they must be shielded from public curiosity.

“This is about the fundamental idea of protecting the individual person caught in the machine of conflict, an individual person who needs to be treated humanely, and who has a family deeply worried about their loved one,” said Florence Anselmo, the head of the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency.

The Central Tracing Agency, which receives registration information from visits and directly from authorities, has provided hundreds of families on all sides with information about their missing loved ones since the beginning of the international armed conflict in Ukraine.

“On behalf of all the prisoners of war and their families, we will continue our bilateral dialogue with unabated determination to gain access to all people held captive,” said Mr Maurer.

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